Provincial public sector organizations will operate under new taxpayer accountability principles that strengthen accountability, promote cost control, and ensure they operate in the best interest of taxpayers, Premier Christy Clark announced today.
“One of this government’s core values is respect for the taxpayer’s dollar. We received a mandate to control government spending and ensure the best possible use of government resources,” said Premier Clark. “These principles recognize that the public sector has a higher accountability to the taxpayer — above and beyond the traditional fiduciary duty to the organization. For the first time, the board members of public sector organizations will be accountable for these values, which will drive a principled and cost-conscious culture across the public sector.”
The new taxpayer accountability principles will be enshrined into the operation of provincial public sector organizations: cost-consciousness (efficiency), accountability, appropriate compensation, service, respect, and integrity.
“In reviews of public sector organizations since 2011, we have identified opportunities to enhance public sector governance and increase accountability to taxpayers,” said Finance Minister Michael de Jong. “These principles will be built into the ongoing business of our public sector organizations to ensure the decisions they make reflect the priorities and values of government and their shareholders — the public.”
In 2011, government announced it would review all Crown corporations to ensure taxpayers are protected and the interests of British Columbians are well served. These reviews have generated recommendations that are resulting in more effective governance, greater cost discipline and better alignment to government’s strategic plan in the corporations subjected to the reviews. These reviews also have broader lessons, both for other entities and government itself. These lessons, expressed as principles of accountability to taxpayers, will guide governance and operational decisions of British Columbia’s public sector.
The taxpayer accountability principles place a heavy focus on strengthening two-way communication between government and provincial public sector entities, as various reviews have identified this as an area that could be improved. The principles increase opportunities for ministers and ministries to engage the public sector organizations for which they are responsible.
The taxpayer accountability principles will be built into the ongoing business of provincial public sector entities to ensure the decisions they make reflect the priorities and values of government and their shareholders — the citizens of B.C.
Key actions flowing from the new principles include:
- The principles will form the basis of an orientation about government’s strategic mandate for all Ministers, board members, Deputy Ministers and CEOs.
- The principles will also form the basis of new mandate letters setting out shared priorities between government and public sector organizations. Board members will sign the mandate letter.
- A new annual board chair/CEO letter will report on the organization’s progress in response to the mandate letter.
- Regular meetings between Ministers responsible and board chairs, and Deputy Ministers and CEOs will focus on performance against the taxpayer accountability principles.
- Ministries will work with public sector organizations to develop an evaluation plan with specific indicators to measure adherence to taxpayer accountability principles.
- Deputy Ministers will develop a strategic engagement plan with their provincial public sector organizations.
- Government will provide guidance to public sector entities on standards of conduct, from which public sector organizations will develop comprehensive codes of conduct that will apply throughout their organization.
- Public sector organizations will undertake more comprehensive communication, orientation and training for their boards and executive.
- Public sector organization service plans and reporting will be streamlined and simplified.
The taxpayer accountability principles apply to all provincial public sector organizations, including Crown corporations, health authorities and post-secondary institutions. Policy is being developed and is imminent for other public sector organizations and entities.
In addition, each minister has received a mandate letter that outlines ministry-specific priorities for the coming year. Priorities common to all ministries include implementation of the taxpayer accountability principles, balancing the ministerial budget in order to control spending and ensuring a balanced budget for British Columbia.
Government has taken a number of steps to ensure provincial public sector organizations are better aligned with principles and priorities of the shareholder, government on behalf of the citizens of B.C.:
- Government’s plan to review Crown corporations was announced in the 2011 Speech from the Throne, to ensure taxpayers are protected and the interests of all British Columbians are well served.
- Reviews have been completed on BC Hydro, ICBC, and Community Living BC, and a review of BC Lottery Corporation is also underway. Translink (though not a provincial Crown corporation) has also been reviewed.
- A new executive compensation framework for Crowns corporations was introduced in July 2012.
- Government announced a core review of all government programs and services in 2013.
Taxpayer Accountability Principles report: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/download/B613CF138959439D9A947CF3D586FE6B
Crown Agency Resourcing Office: http://gov.bc.ca/crownaccountabilities
Public Sector Employers’ Council: www.fin.gov.bc.ca/psec/
A backgrounder follows.
Office of the Premier
Ministry of Finance
Taxpayer Accountability Principles
Cost consciousness (efficiency): Strengthen cost management capabilities and foster a culture of cost-consciousness at all levels of public sector organizations. Provide public services and programs as efficiently and effectively as possible to "bend the cost curve" and support sustainable public policies and programs as a lasting legacy for generations to come.
Accountability: Transparently manage responsibilities according to a set of common public sector principles in the best interest of the citizens of the province. By enhancing organizational efficiency and effectiveness in the planning, reporting and decision making, public sector organizations will ensure actions are aligned with government's strategic mandate.
Appropriate compensation: Comply with a rigorous, standardized approach to performance management and employee compensation, which reflects appropriate compensation for work across the public sector that is consistent with government's taxpayer accountability principles and respectful of the taxpayer.
Service: Maintain a clear focus on positive outcomes for citizens of British Columbia, by delivering cost-efficient, effective, value for money public services and programs.
Respect: Engage in equitable, compassionate, respectful and effective communications that ensure all parties are properly informed or consulted on actions, decisions and public communications in a timely manner. Proactively collaborate in a spirit of partnership that respects the use of taxpayers' monies.
Integrity: Make decisions and take actions that are transparent, ethical and free from conflict of interest. Require the establishment of a strong ethical code of conduct for all employees and executives. Serve the citizens of British Columbia by respecting the shared public trust and acting in accordance with the taxpayer accountability principles.
Office of the Premier
Ministry of Finance